Alumni profile: Jill Peters leverages her LSC education to land her dream job

Jill Peters, BS ’14, has always been drawn to nature. Peters grew up in a national park in northern Wisconsin, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, where she dreamed of working in the field.  So, when she came to UW-Madison she decided to major in Biology and she got to work studying with the hope of one day doing conservation work in the great outdoors.

However, it wasn’t long until she realized Biology wasn’t quite the right fit. “Biology just felt a bit too broad for what I wanted to do,” notes Peters. Luckily, one of her friends recommended the Department of Life Sciences Communication, and according to Jill it was the perfect fit.  “I always knew I wanted to work in conservation in some capacity, but I also wanted to have a creative outlet. I always wanted to do communications because I love writing and photography – they just come naturally to me.”  So, in her third year at UW, Jill decided to major in LSC and get her certificate in Environmental Studies.

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LSC 515 students campaign to “Clean the Stream” at Union South

Story by Sarah Krier. Sarah is an undergraduate student majoring in LSC and the Department of Life Sciences Communication 2016-17 Lenore Landry Scholar

As the fall semester came to a close, students in LSC 515: Public Information Campaigns and Programs presented their semester’s work in front of a room full of professors, Union South employees, and peers. Four separate teams competed to determine whose campaign to clean the waste stream at Union South was most thorough, well communicated, and cohesive.

LSC 515 is a capstone course focusing on understanding the principles of social marketing and utilizing these principles to plan a strategic communications campaign to promote issues of public interest like environmental conservation and health conscious behavior.

“The curriculum provides the opportunity to bring together communication methods and theory, all that students have learned during their time with LSC, and develop a real-world social marketing campaign,” said Associate Professor Bret Shaw who taught the course last semester.

Students conducted a trash audit of the waste stream at Union South as a part of their project. Pictured here are (left to right) Shelby Kuenzli, Nikki Rasmussen, Sam Marquardt, Madeline Fischer, Bret Shaw, Maria Castillo.

Students conducted a trash audit of the waste stream at Union South as a part of their project. Pictured here are (left to right) Shelby Kuenzli, Nikki Rasmussen, Sam Marquardt, Madeline Fischer, Bret Shaw, and Maria Castillo.

Students were tasked with finding creative marketing communication strategies to enhance Union South’s recycling initiatives. “Clean the Stream” was the students’ slogan, stemming from the idea that waste becomes contaminated because of the lack of proper sorting measures—recycling trash items or vice versa. After conducting both observational reports and interviews with students at the Union, it was observed that an overwhelmingly high number of students reported that they generally felt confused about what items were recyclable, compostable, and what should ultimately go in the trash. Items that are most problematic include plastic straws, silverware, and coffee sleeves.
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Alumni profile: LSC grad Sara Schoenborn leverages her education to achieve success in diverse fields

Graduates from the Department of Life Sciences Communication go on to have successful careers in a wide range of industries – partly because the knowledge they learn at LSC can be applied to a wide variety of jobs.  LSC alum, Sara Schoenborn (BS ’10) has used her expertise for a successful career.

Sara Schoenborn

After graduating, Sara pursued her dream of working in the media industry, working as the assistant editor for Agri-View, an agricultural newspaper in Wisconsin.  Sara, who was also a Dairy Science major, found the job to be a perfect mix of her passions. While at Agri-View, she put to use the skills she learned at LSC, including researching and writing stories with compelling narratives, creating a strong digital media footprint, and designing print layouts.  She also used the knowledge she learned in her classes to ensure she was portraying individuals in a fair and balanced way.

After approximately three years she decided it was time for a new challenge. In the spring of 2013, Sara became the executive director of Wisconsin FFA Foundation – an organization dedicated to making a positive difference in students’ lives through agricultural education. “I really viewed my job as a way to give back to an organization I was a part of while I was in high school. It was my opportunity to give back and carry on that tradition for other students,” Sara said.
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Former LSC 625: Risk Communication students present their research at the Society for Risk Analysis

A popular course in the Department of Life Sciences Communication is LSC 625: Risk Communication taught by LSC chair, Dominique Brossard.  The course teaches students how to talk about risk and explains the complexities of risk in the context of the other knowledge they have gained through LSC classes.

“Many of the emerging topics in science and technology come with a great deal of risk, so it is critical for science communication professionals and researchers to understand how to talk about it,” notes Brossard. “Science communication isn’t just about communicating science, it is also about communicating risk, so it is important to teach students strategies for doing that.”

sra-logoMany LSC students have taken the course over the years, including LSC master’s student Chris Wirz, LSC Ph.D. student Kate Rose, and recent LSC Ph.D. alum Molly Simis-Wilkinson.  In fact, Kate and Molly also served as teaching assistants for the class.  This week Chris, Kate, and Molly made the trip to San Diego for the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) 2016 Annual Meeting where they presented their research – much of which builds on the principles taught in LSC 625.
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LSC research methods course teaches students fundamental skills for success

You might not expect a single course to help prepare students for careers in advertising, journalism, market research, digital marketing, and public relations among others. But LSC 250: Research Methods in the Communication Industry does just that. The course teaches students the skills needed to synthesize and analyze data – an important skill in a broad range of fields.

LSC 250 focuses on developing research method skills including understanding research reports and data, identifying markets, segmenting audiences, measuring attitudes and developing effective campaign strategies and messages.

According to LSC chair Dominique Brossard, “The skills students learn in LSC 250 are fundamental for future academic research, but it is important to remember students will use those same skills when they graduate and move on to work in the industry.  Identifying and articulating trends in data is critical.”

Assistant Professor Neil Stenhouse teaches students data visualization skills

LSC’s Neil Stenhouse teaches students how to effectively communicate quantitative findings.

Through the course, students learn to design and conduct surveys, experiments and other forms of inquiry, interpret data, and write reports clearly demonstrating data significance.  Additionally, students work in groups to create an experimental or observational study with their peers.

“This course is really helping me. I am planning on getting a certificate in business so this course is giving me a lot of the background knowledge needed for a career in a variety of business fields,” notes LSC major Elizabeth Woidat. “The concepts in this course can apply to a lot of different majors.  It is also good to have this background knowledge when participating in research on campus.”
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Ph.D. student examines the relationship between technology, conservation and public opinion

Story by Sarah Krier. Sarah is an undergraduate student majoring in LSC and the Department of Life Sciences Communication 2016-17 Lenore Landry Scholar

Populations of the Hawaiian honeycreeper, a colorful bird native to Hawaii, struggle to survive due to bird malaria transmitted by non-native mosquitos. Gene-editing and de-extinction techniques could offer promising avenues for adapting the species to adversity—but how does the public feel about these interventions?

The relationship between public opinion and scientific interventions is exactly what Patrice Kohl, a doctoral student in the Department of Life Sciences Communication, is working to understand. Kohl takes an interdisciplinary look at how the public reacts to conservation efforts to prevent extinction, much like the Hawaiian honeycreeper.

Patrice Kohl

Patrice Kohl

Kohl was recently awarded an Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) fellowship from the National Science Foundation. IGERT funds graduate students across the country, encouraging research that fosters strong collaborative bonds across disciplines while their advisor participates in interdisciplinary activities. The UW-Madison IGERT program that Kohl is funded through, which involves her Ph.D. advisor LSC chair Dominique Brossard, focuses on novel ecosystems. While the exact definition and parameters of novel ecosystems are debated, they can generally be described as ecosystems whose historical trajectory has been influenced and changed by human intervention.
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Recent LSC graduate brings knowledge and skills to new Wisconsin startup

Undergraduate alumna of the Department of Life Sciences Communication leave campus with strong theoretical knowledge, valuable communication skills, and lasting connections.  That was certainly the case for LSC graduate Megan Madsen, BS 2011.

While a LSC undergraduate student, Madsen interned at IceCube Neutrino Observatory.  She was also involved in the UW-Madison National Agri-Marketing Association chapter (NAMA) and the NAMA marketing team.  While a part of the NAMA marketing team Madsen worked alongside fellow students to create and present a comprehensive marketing plan for a product not yet introduced to the market. LSC Faculty Associate Sarah Botham serves as the NAMA faculty advisor, and it was during this time that Madsen and Botham formed a strong mentor relationship.

After graduating Madsen continued to use her science communication skills at IceCube, where she worked full-time as a community and education coordinator for over four years. During that time, Madsen further developed the skills and knowledge she gained at LSC and continued to nurture the relationships she made while a student at UW-Madison.

LSC grad Megan Madsen and LSC Faculty Associate Sarah Botham

LSC grad Megan Madsen and LSC Faculty Associate Sarah Botham

When it came time for a new challenge, Madsen reached out to Botham for professional guidance.  Botham, who is an entrepreneur as well as a writer, consultant and educator, had the perfect opportunity.  She had recently started a new business – WiscoBoxes™ – a themed gift box company that features only and all Wisconsin products in boxes with themes such as a badger box, a baby box, a chocolate and wine box, and others. Madsen is now the brand manager for WiscoBoxes where she is at work designing a company website, conducting market research and developing product guidelines for the company.
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Students learn the essentials of journalistic writing at Capitol press conference

The day-to-day role of a news writer entails many tasks, from conducting interviews to investigating stories and writing articles.  One such task is attending and participating in press conferences.  Yet, for a novice writer this can be intimidating.

Students gathered in the Wisconsin Assembly chamber at the Capitol on Wednesday October 5 for a mock press conference.

Students gathered in the Wisconsin Assembly Chamber at the Capitol on Wednesday October 5th for a mock press conference.

Not so for the students of LSC 111: Science and Technology Newswriting.  Continuing with tradition, Department of Life Sciences Communication instructor Michael Flaherty arranged a mock press conference at the Wisconsin State Capitol just for the students of LSC 111.  These prospective writers will feel more comfortable heading into future press conferences having participated in a practice press conference in the Wisconsin Assembly Chamber at the State Capitol.

The mock press conference, which took place on Wednesday October 5th, featured Frank Frassetto, director of the consumer protection division of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).  The focus of the press conference was DATCP’s recent warning to consumers that they’ve discovered credit card skimmers at gas pumps around the state that enable thieves to steal credit card information.
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